Laurence Foss

photo neededIn hmolscience, Laurence Foss (c.1940-) is an American philosopher noted, in psychological thermodynamics, for his 1987 book The Second Medical Revolution, co-written with Kenneth Rothenberg, wherein they suggest a new approach to modern medicine based on quantum mechanics, irreversible thermodynamics, and information theory, and his follow-up 2002 book The End of Modern Medicine chapter section on what he calls the “second law of psychothermodynamics”, wherein, building on religious physicist Michael Guillen’s idea that human existence is an unnatural anomaly in the framework of a universe governed by the second law, he attempts to slant the presentation of the second law into a contrived anthropomorphism to argue, in his own words, for a vitalistic (vitalism), mentalistic (mentalism), and spiritualistic (autopoietic) universal view, unlike the mechanistic (mechanism), physicalistic (physicalism), and materialistic (materialism) prevailing scientific world view. [1]

In 1987, Foss, in his “The Second Law of Psychothermodynamics”, tilizes English physicist Paul Davies’ 1983 gravity-driven entropy gap model, mixed anthropomorphized ideas on negentropy, information theory, vitalism, and self-organization, among others, to argue that the second law deviates when it comes to the formation of humans. In introducing his model, Foss states that according to standard thermodynamics, the mechanical universe is governed by the following equation: [1]

 \Delta G_{universe} > 0 \,

Foss seems to cull this version of the second law from American religious physicist Michael Guillen’s 1995 book Five Equations that Changed the World, the second chapter of which is devoted to the second law. Foss then quotes the following comment by Guillen concerning the second law and life: [2]

“Contrary to popular belief, being alive is unnatural; in fact, all life exists in defiance of, not in conformity with, the most fundamental law of the universe.”

This comment by Guillen, who to note lists his favorite book as the Bible, is code for "God created life and continues to create and evolve life in defiance or opposition to the second law", or something to this effect. On this religious-physics basis, Foss goes on to argue on to argue that life, mind, and culture, are nonmechanistic “miracle” outcomes that arose from the mechanistic beginnings of the big bang. Foss goes on to state that “physicists assure us that these are negentropic outcomes”, that derive from empirical outcomes.

Skipping over several pages of argument, Foss then goes on to state that following the mechanistic beginnings of the big bang, a phase or age of “spiritual machines” emerged, which possessed a degree of autonomy or self-determination; an autonomy which he says “permits them to import negative entropy, which Foss defined as energy and information, from their surroundings and export entropy back into those surroundings. Foss then concludes that this exported energy can then be imported as free energy by neighboring structures.

He then goes onto define primordial particles, atoms, living things, stars, and spiral galaxies as “experiential entities” that all display some degree of self-determination. On this basis, Foss postulates that we may infer a successor law, which he defines as the “second law of psychothermodynamics”, which he says can be expressed in pseudo mathematical form as follows:

Foss equation
where the twinned greater than and less than symbols designate the creative tension between life and death, growth and decay, richness and corruption that characterizes our universal experience. Foss states that complexity theorists refer to this tension as “order at the edge of chaos”, a condition attributed to unstable, nonlinear systems at a critical threshold away from equilibrium. Foss here seems to be citing the bifurcation theory of Ilya Prigogine. Foss states that the prefix ‘psycho’ is to be understood in terms of the formula:

 \psi = f(m^3) \,

which he doesn't seem to elaborate on. In sum, Foss argues for a type of panpsychism in which all matter, from atoms to humans to stars, is infused with conscious properties, and that the universe is not a mechanical universe, but rather is “vitalistic and autopoietic (spiritual)”, all in effort to establish an argument platform on which to advocate medicine practice reform, that towards a more humanizing or holistic style of medical treatment and practice. [3]

Foss completed his PhD in 1968 at the University of Notre Dame, in what seems to be philosophy, with a dissertation on “Substance as a Category of Descriptive Metaphysics”. [4]

1. (a) Foss, Laurence and Rothenberg, Kenneth. (1987). The Second Medical Revolution: from Biomedicine to Infomedicine (thermodynamics, 38+ pgs). Shambhala.
(b) Foss, Laurence. (2002). The End of Modern Medicine: Biomedical Science under a Microscope (Section: Second Law of Psychothermodynamics, pgs. 229-36). SUNY Press.
2. (a) Guillen, Michael. (1995). Five Equations that Changed the World (pg. 6). Hyperion.
(b) Michael Guillen (about) –
3. Marcum, James A. (2008). An Introductory Philosophy of Medicine: Humanizing Modern Medicine (pg. 109-110). Springer.
4. Foss, Laurence. (1968). “Substance as a Category of Descriptive Metaphysics” (abs), PhD thesis/dissertation. University of Notre Dame.

External links
Laurence Foss (articles) –
Foss, Laurence – WorldCat Identities.

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